Wikis: Why Sharing Makes Sense

August 12, 2007

As July turns to August the temperatures continue to rise and the time to reorganize for the start of school is upon us. Since my first year of teaching I have always declared that I would spend June re-organizing my syllabus while everything is fresh in my mind. 0-4. At least this year I wrote down my ideas so I can continue my progress in mashing everything together.

The first task in my summer cleaning involved deleting duplicate files. Over the past four years I have adjusted most every document I have created. Technological improvements what they are, I have acquired a new storage device about every six months. While this is great as the number of files I own increased, I never properly took the time to update my files choosing instead to simply add to the files.

As I am now nearly complete in my task of eliminating duplicate files, I look to share my ideas and documents with my fellow teachers. The past few years I have copied my files onto CDs for new teachers who shared my courses. Not professing to have all of the answers, just looking to help a fellow teacher out and possible save him or her some time in reproducing a document from scratch.

While these new teachers have confirmed to me that this is helpful, eventually the CDs disappears. So for this year, how about a wiki.

Last year while answering the request of a teacher on an English list-serve I loaded up a Julius Caesar unit to my Wikispaces blog wiki. Over the summer I realized that this could be useful if our entire English department or possibly the entire school did the same. Coincidentally Miguel Guhlin wrote about the power of sharing around the same time. I must say that I agree with this idea.

As part of my summer reading this summer I finished Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. While I will present a more formal assessment of the book later, the most outstanding item from the book to me is that while business is embracing collaborative technology, schools are typically slow to respond to the same stimulus. One day the education field will realize that when we stop wasting time by holding on to the information, we can address more important tasks. Who cares about the credit as long as you get the job done. If we share our ideas and the grunt work of creating files, then we can use the time saved to improve the education of our students. If we can share our ideas with another school who is trying to figure a new way to teacher Julius Caesar, then someone else will help us in the future.

Enjoy your day,

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iTune U: The Potential for Change

August 9, 2007

A few months ago Apple announced the launching of iTunes U as a separate feature. I am excited about this announcement for a variety of reasons. Podcasting is becoming a common theme for those who discuss Web 2.0 applications. However, some in education feel that podcasting is a fad, too complicated, or any of several excuses for not embracing this powerful tool. The launching of iTunes U provides a powerful endorsement of podcasting in education.

While universities have been taking advantage of iTunes and podcasting for the past few years, the introduction of iTunes U puts podcasting in education into a larger light. The number of K-12 podcasts in growing rapidly each day. When I first started exploring podcasting two years ago the Education category on iTunes had the sub-categories of K12 and Higher Education. Since then the sub-categories has expanded to include Ed Tech, Training and Language Courses. The number of educational podcasts is so great that if I do not place time limits on my searches I end up spending most of my evening searching and listening to various educational podcasts. The introduction of a specific University feed on iTunes can direct lifelong learners or educators.

Open/Free Learning

I embrace the fact that I am a nerd. At any given moment my TIVO will have between 10-20 hours or recordings from the History Channel. I recall in college using Yahoo to locate the syllabus or project assignments for courses at universities I did not attend, simply because of an interest in the topic. The only deterring factor to this practice, setting aside that I kept this practice a secret from my roommates, was the time involved in the process of searching for assessments. iTunes U will allow people with similar addictions the opportunity to attend courses as if they were at the school.

Continued Content Development

As an educator I am excited about the chance to continue my education. I have found that time is against me, preventing me for keeping active all of the podcast subscriptions on my iTunes. That said, the ability to subscribe to a college level course is a great tool. Last year I taught a course in economics. While I enjoy this topic, I have not studies this discipline since my junior year in college. The ability to enroll in college level economic courses is a great advantage for me. I cannot only use such courses to recall the explanations of topics that my and other professors use, but I can experience the changes in these explanations since my graduation.

Podcasting ideas

I began using podcasting in my English courses in reaction to the NPR series “This I Believe“. After my wife tipped me off to the series, I thought it would be a good essay topic for my students. This lesson is my favorite of the year and my students tend to enjoy the process. In planning this lesson, I realized that the odds were against one of our essay hitting the radio waves, so we began podcasting the essays. While I do not know that I will be able to get such ideas from courses on iTunes U, I am optimistic.

Future Change

The high of my excitement for iTunes U is the possibilities for change. In a podcast in early June, George Mason Professor Russ Roberts interviewed Dan Pink, author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. Towards the end of the podcast, beyond the 45 minute mark, Pink and Roberts begin to discuss the idea of great professors who cannot communicate their discipline. Pink notes that the common statement that, “Professor X knows his subject, but does not know how to teach,” is an incorrect statement. Pink argues that if a Professor truly knows his or her content, then they could relate this information to the students. I admit that until I heard this podcast I subscribed to the theory that a professor could be smart, but not a good teacher. Given time to digest Pink’s position, I must agree. If someone truly understands the information they teach, they can relate this information to the audience. In fact, I believe that understand how to connect with your audience holds more weight than being brilliant in your field.

Why mention this? I recall when Duke assessed their iPod initiative one of the concerns by professors was student attendance. One professor noted that he began implementing pop quizzes because students were passing exam by simply listening to his podcasts and quit attend class. The response to this professor, paraphrasing because I cannot find the bookmarked article, was to transform the way you conduct class. If your students can pass the course without attending class, then why should they. My hope is that more college professors will realize how podcasting can liberate them from lecturing as much as shift the learning in courses. Then again with the growth in K12 podcasting, if college professors do not embrace podcasting, students are going to eclipse them and by using the right brain thinking rule the university.

Enjoy your day,


iQuiz: interactive iPods

August 2, 2007

I have ended my continental travels for the summer and am finally settling back in to school mode. My wife and I took a relaxing trip to Cozumel for our anniversary. The day after our return I headed up to Fargo, ND to coach at the USA Wrestling Cadet and Junior National Championship. While the upcoming school year was the last thing on my mind while in Mexico, the fifteen hour drive to Fargo provided ample opportunity for ideas. Unfortunately my hotel did not have a stable wireless internet connection, so these I listed these ideas on my Treo to be formalized upon my return. That said …

iQuiz

If you have not heard about this recent addition to iTunes, check out this overview. I first heard about iQuiz at NECC. Yesterday I create my first iQuiz using iQuiz maker and it is as easy as advertised. I based the quiz on my presentation on iPods to the faculty at my school in July. I intend to distribute the quiz to members of the faculty, allowing them an opportunity to practice playing with iQuiz and review some of the information from the presentation.

Review:

The iQuiz Maker application is as user friendly as advertised. Creating new questions is a simple as typing a blog article. I was able to create questions by both typing directly into the application and also by copying and pasting from OpenOffice. My intent by doing this was to see if I would be able to easily transfer questions from quizzes already made. After purchasing iQuiz from iTunes, $0.99, I was able to export my quiz, sync my iPod, and began playing.

Likes:

Besides the ease of use of the iQuiz Maker I enjoy the potential of this application. The iQuiz Maker allows the creator to choose from either True and False or Multiple Guess questions. For T/F questions you can include a clearification note if the correct answer is False. iQuiz also provides the user with a variety of statistics. In addition to the last score, iQuiz also provides the record score and average score. The statistics also display the percentage of correct answers broken down by T/F or Multiple Choice Questions on a latest correct and overall. The simplicity of the application and readout of statistics allow for high potential.

While I am not endorsing standardized exams, I do enjoy trivia games. I feel that a teacher can use iQuiz Maker to create fun reviews specific to the content in his our her course. If a teacher has already typed out review questions it would take little time to copy and paste these questions into iQuiz Maker and export them for student use. A teacher can use the same questions from the class review activity for the iQuiz. This will simply provide students another opportunity to review the content and practice on the style of the questions.

iQuiz would also be a great alternative to comprehension quizzes. I detest spending class time to administer a quiz to ensure the completion of homework. With iQuiz a teacher creates a comprehension quiz and sends that home with the students. The next class period I could check that they completed the quiz during the class warm-up. While I realize that a student could easily complete the quiz while reading the assignment or complete the quiz without reading, the same is true of any take home quiz. Students in my courses understand that memorizing the information does not prove anything. They must be able to own and to use this information.  Additionally if a student is taking a short-cut on a low impact daily quiz, then this students has outside circumstances that should be addressed. The difference between a traditional quiz and and a portable iQuiz is the students has the opportunity the review the information on the quiz and get instant feedback at anytime in the future. This way a student who realizes they cannot recall the information requested by the quiz, they can review these questions anytime in the future in a non-confrontational environment. With automated, instant feedback the student does not have to ask someone else and face embarrasment in reviewing a quiz the teacher assigned the week before.

Requests:

While iQuiz Maker is a great addition to iTunes, there is one main improvement I would like to see made on the next version. I would like to see more use of the Correct Answer Explanation. While the use of this feature for False answers is nice, the opportunition to provide an explanation or strees a specfic point when the answer is True would be nice. Additionally, the use of a Correct Answer Explanation for multiple guess questions would be even better. Aside from the request, I feel that this is a great addition to iPods and a great addition to educational technology.

If you are using this new program or begin using this program, let me know about your results.

Enjoy your day,